The impact of lighting on ceramics

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The impact of lighting on ceramics

Post by Mordeep on Sat Aug 05, 2017 6:06 pm

Please excuse the nerdy part of this thread but I wanted to throw out for discussion a popular theory of mine regarding the impact of lighting on ceramic designs. It may sound a little broad but increasingly I am seeing connections between eras in design and innovations in lighting. It makes sense when you think about it for the environment something is viewed in to have an impact on how it looks.

I believe you can initially split down lighting into 3 main sections. Candlelight, gas/oil light and electric light. Obviously those can be split down further as innovation existed within all of them increasing the light generated.

Candlelight in most European countries was the main source of light in the 18th and earlier centuries. As a pretty small light source it resulted in the need for excessive amounts of candles to generate anything like the amount of light people enjoy today. This resulted in people doing what ever they could to enhance and reflect the small amount of light they had. Polished metal, mirrors and gilding was common. The best ceramics of the day show this with highlights designed to reflect light.

Gaslight/Oil light comes in at the start of the 19th century. It generates more light than candle but also gives of soot and makes homes smoky. Decoration including wall fabrics are increased to take advantage of the additional light but also to hide the stains from the lamps smoke. Jardinieres become popular to hold ferns and other plants that thrive in low oxygen environments. Lamp light like candles has a movement to it with a slight flicker this adds animation to inanimate objects. It explains not only the popularity with taxidermy but also the decoration being added to ceramics, faces and animals looked like they were moving. Electric light removes that effect leaving these objects still and without the effect they were intended to give.

Then we have our current phase electric light. It wasn't until I looked into it that I realized how slow a build up electric light had. Even though it first came into being in the 1880's, it was still only for the rich or for commercial buildings up until the 1920's. Most cities had electric light by 1930 but still only 10% of homes in the countryside had it. It was not until the 1950's that it was common in homes. That slow build up had an impact on design with bold design on pale backgrounds and glaze effects gaining in popularity as the network expanded.  

We now live in an era with most lighting levels are easy to obtain. If you want a blazing 100w lit room you can have it. We are not restricted by what is possible and as such I don't believe it influences us to the same degree as the past. But it is worth pointing out the most homes and public spaces have the same level consistent level of lighting. Maybe that is influencing our tastes?

I still can explain 1970's love of brown though. Not sure they look great in any level of light. Insane

Thoughts?
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Mordeep

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Re: The impact of lighting on ceramics

Post by 22 Crawford St. on Sat Aug 05, 2017 9:20 pm

Life would certainly been different with little 'pools' of light and murk everywhere behind. Remember much light would have come from the side not so much above as we are used to. Bill Bryson points out that in the age of candles all the furniture would have been arranged around the edges of a room against the walls and not in the centre, simply so that you did not keep banging into it in the gloom.

Kubrick was obsessed (as usual) with filing Barry Lyndon as much as possible in candle light to get an authentic look. So much so they had to get ultra special lenses from NASA for the cameras, there was simply not enough light to film.

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Re: The impact of lighting on ceramics

Post by Mordeep on Sat Aug 05, 2017 11:50 pm

I had never thought about rooms having no furniture in the middle because it cut the light from candles and you bumped into things. I can certainly imagine Victorian rooms cloudy with smoke from the lamps and fires. I assume you would come across objects like icebergs in fog.
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